BEST LIBRARIES AROUND THE WORLD – I really love to discover and visit new libraries everyday. With that in mind, I have done hours of research trying to find the most interesting libraries in the world. As you can see this is the second-ranking I have created (read the first one here). I have tried to balance these two lists between architecturally interesting libraries and libraries with interesting collections, but most of these libraries are actually fascinating in both aspects. I’d love to spend a day in any of these libraries, and I hope you’ll agree.
1.SENDAI MEDIATHEQUE, JAPAN
Toyo Ito, 2001
The Mediatheque is located on a tree-lined avenue in Sendai, its transparent facade allowing for the revelation of diverse activities that occur within the building.
The interior of each level of the mediatheque is designed by a different designer. On the ground floor, Kazuyo Sejima places the administrative offices behind a translucent screen. The second and third levels house the Shimin Library and include a browsing lounge with internet access with furniture designed by K.T Architecture.
The fourth and fifth levels contain gallery space; one level an exhibition space with moveable walls and the other an exhibition space with mainly fixed walls with rest area seating by Karim Rashid. The sixth level houses the multimedia library dedicated to audio-visual with green and white furniture designed by Ross Lovegrove and a 180 seat cinema.
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2.VENNESLA LIBRARY AND CULTURE HOUSE, NORWAY
Helen & Hard, 2011
Wood in all its glory: 27 ribs made of prefabricated glue-laminated timber elements and CNC-cut plywood boards are the basic components of this library. The Gaudi-esque timber beams and columns gradually shift shape according to technical and programmatic demands achieving a strong spatial identity well deserved for the cultural centre.
The new library building completed in 2011 has won several architecture prizes and has been praised both within Norway and abroad.
3.THE ROYAL DANISH LIBRARY (THE BLACK DIAMOND), DENMARK
Søren Kierkegaards Plads 1
DK-1016 Copenhagen K
Schmidt, Hammer and Lassen, 1999
The “Black Diamond” is a characteristic new library building at the waterfront of Copenhagen. The building from 1999 is designed by the Danish architects Schmidt, Hammer and Lassen as an extension of The Royal Library and lies adjacent to the old library cathedral of Hans J. Holm from 1906. However, in form and materials, it strikingly contrasts the old library building.
The variety of cultural activities of the new building has turned The Royal Library into a central cultural centre of Copenhagen as part of the harbour promenade.
The seven stories of the building contain not only traditional library functions such as the four new reading rooms but also a concert hall, exhibition galleries, bookshop, café, and restaurant. The ceiling of the bridge between the old and the new is decorated by the Danish artist Per Kirkeby. In the old building of The Royal Library, a Jewish museum has been designed by Daniel Libeskind in 2004 with sloping floors and light wooden interior.
4.STOCKHOLM PUBLIC LIBRARY
The plan of the expansion for the public library in Stockholm proposes an interesting combination between memories and new languages. The building is a solid mass formed by the conjugation of one single element, a parallelepiped.
The interior spaces are filled with patios and spaces with double height. This building allows a longitudinal vision by means of large openings to the outside. On the exterior, the public space form is made to provide activities and meetings points, where people can live the city, culture and urban life.
5.RIJKSMUSEUM RESEARCH LIBRARY, AMSTERDAM
The Rijksmuseum was founded back in the 1800s to exhibit Dutch stadtholders collections. Ever since 1808, the museum has been located in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Originally the museum was known as the National Art Gallery and inspired by the French. It holds one of the largest collection of Dutch artwork, crafts, and history. The collection includes paintings, ship models, sculptures, archaeological artifacts, clothing, weapons, historical prints, photographs and much more.
Before the year of 2003 when the renovation began the Rijksmuseum Research Library was housed inside the Rijksmuseum. It can now be found at a self-standing location at Frans van Mierisstraat 92 in Amsterdam. the best and largest art research library in the Netherlands. The main purpose of the library is to preserve art history. Containing 350,000 items including 70,000 auction catalogs, 500 annual and current periodical, and 3,000 discontinued periodicals, the library has a yearly growth of 5,000 books and around 1,500 auction catalogs.
6.AMSTERDAM PUBLIC LIBRARY
The vision of the architect, Jo Coenen, was to create a building with light and space at its heart. Arup’s lighting design creates a landscape with contrasting zones on the large collection floors. Luminous escalators guide visitors upstairs to terraces in the library’s high atrium.
To help achieve a sense of space, Arup’s structural and building design specialists cleverly hid the building’s equipment and services from view. A system for distributing fresh air is incorporated into the floors.
7.NATIONAL LIBRARY, SITE RICHELIEU, PARIS, FRANCE
Located in the 2nd arrondissement of Paris, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (National Library of France) at the Richelieu – Louvois site, harbours an important part of the institution’s collections.
The quadrangle reserves its shelves for special collections in the performing arts (3,000 books freely available), maps and plans, prints and photographs, coins, medals, music (music books, periodicals, autographed letters, opera librettos, iconographic collections) and precious manuscripts. Reading rooms are open to the public to view these collections.
The Richelieu quadrangle has been under renovation since 2010, with completion of the works projected for 2011.
8.THE MEDIA LIBRARY AND CULTURAL CENTRE, FRANCE
Paul Gresham + Stéphane Barbotin-Larrieu architectes, 2010
The Media Library and Cultural centre is located in the town of Lisses, 30 kilometers to the south of Paris, in a zone developed during the period of suburban expansion undertaken in the 1970s around the French capital, an urban extension consisting of social and sports facilities, shops, housing and parking organized along a pedestrian path, the Mail de l’Ile de France. The new project was intended to replace an existing cultural and administrative centre on the same site, a building severely damaged from years of repeated acts of vandalism.
9.CENTRAL PUBLIC LIBRARY, VANCOUVER, CANADA
Vancouver Public Library’s Central Branch maintains a collection of 1.4 million items and acts as a system-wide resource for 22 branch locations. A substantial amount of material is retained for reference only use in the Central Library; this includes periodicals, newspapers and government documents.
The Special Collections department (reference only materials) maintains a very strong local history collection, in print and photos, as well as children’s materials and rare books.
The Popular Reading Library, Multilingual services, and the Children’s Library all have extensive circulating collections.
The level of non-fiction collections at Central support comprehensive, sustained independent study, undergraduate and graduate course work in some areas, and professional levels in some areas.
10.BRISTOL CENTRAL LIBRARY, BRISTOL, UK
“The Reference Library is located on the first floor of the Central Library. It is the largest public reference library in the South West with a collection that was originally founded in 1613 with the first Bristol Library on King Street. The current book stock numbers over a third of a million titles. There are over 100 work spaces in the Main Reading Room.” (Central library website)
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